Fellowship Primitive Baptist

Harris County
Org 1839
Photography by Gail Des Jardin

The following history of Fellowship Baptist Church is courtesy of Clay Ramsey.  Clay is a frequent contributor to Historic Rural Churches.  He will have a much deeper history of Fellowship in a subsequent issue of Georgia Backroads magazine that will be available soon.

Fellowship Progressive Primitive Baptist Church, located just outside of the little town of Shiloh, in Harris County, west-central Georgia, was constituted on November 14, 1839. Thomas A. Middlebrooks had set aside some land for a church when he bought property in the area in 1836. On this site, located eleven miles east of Hamilton, Creed Caldwell, minister at New Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Yatesville and Ephesus Church in Woodland, formed a clerical presbytery with Elders John B. Williams and John W. Turner and founded Fellowship with nine original members. They were thus accepted into the Upatoi Association of Baptists.

The written records that survive note their adoption of the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 as their statement of faith, and affirmation of beliefs in their Abstract of Principles distinguish them as Particular or Regular Baptists, with strong “hyper-Calvinism” elements in their theology. Within five years of the beginning of the church, the Ochlocknee, Suwanee River, and Alabaha River Associations had separated from other Baptist associations in the state over the issue of missions. This split led to the formation of two different denominations, one of which was the anti-missionary Primitive Baptists. This would be Fellowship’s primary association.

The church continued a slow but steady growth through the nineteenth century, but by the 1890s they began to lose members with the arrival of the railroads and access to employment opportunities elsewhere. Beginning in 1924, and lasting for fourteen years, “[T]he church perhaps suffered the greatest trials. Satan entered strongly into the midst,” according to Elder E.B. Seckinger, a Fellowship minister who later wrote a brief history of the church. There is no indication in the record of the nature of this conflict. It could have been the lingering effects of the Progressive movement of the 1890s, when some argued for the loosening of their strict theology and ritual. It could have been the start of the foot washing controversy of the 1930s. Or it could have been something else entirely, a conflict over some long forgotten issue. Whatever the source of the disagreement, the result was that a year after Elder T.J. Moran was ordained to the ministry and assumed the pastoral leadership of Fellowship in 1929, the doors of the church closed and remained so for eight years.

In 1938, Elder Seckinger stepped into the pulpit and the church reopened “to the rejoicing of the little God-fearing flock” of the nine remaining members. The official Minutes of Fellowship record the details of every church conference through 1981. They prayed, worshiped, and served for another sixty years with little noted influence from the outside world and no remarkable upheaval that compared to the tumult of the 1930s. The church was finally shuttered in the 1990s. Elder Pounce Burns was the last pastor before it closed and its remaining members scattered. He is interred in the cemetery behind the church with generations of Fellowship members. For over a hundred and fifty years a group of faithful in Shiloh preserved what they believed to be the teachings of Jesus and the practices of early Christians. The Fellowship Church building remains as a testament to their ministry and service.

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